Few details were available after a violent collision killed an 18-year-old high school senior and her 14-year-old sister.
The wreck occurred on State Highway 4, at the intersection of Five Points Road. The two girls were declared dead at the scene after the car they were riding in pulled in front of an oncoming semi-truck. No other injuries were reported.
Left-Turn and Right-Turn Wrecks in Georgia
Driver inattention almost always causes these wrecks. But the major issue is which driver was inattentive, or more frequently, which driver was more inattentive than the other one.
These wrecks usually occur on surface streets, and they frequently involve pedestrians, motorcyclists, or bicyclists.
- Right Cross: Usually, when drivers prepare to turn right, they only look to the left. So, they usually do not see pedestrians using crosswalks or bicyclists using designated bike lanes, if these victims are on the right. Making matters worse, most drivers make rolling right turns. So, the victim has little or no time to react.
- Left Hook: These wrecks, which are called SMIDSY crashes (sorry, mate, I didn’t see you) in some parts of the world, often involve motorcycles. A driver is waiting to make an unprotected left turn against traffic. When a perceived gap in the traffic appears, the motorist turns directly in front of a motorcycle.
Freeway turn wrecks follow the same principles. But there’s usually more traffic on surface streets than freeways. Therefore, in a freeway turn wreck, distance matters.
Sometimes, vehicle drivers aren’t watching the road and they turn directly in front of large trucks. These vehicles cannot stop on a dime, especially if they are fully loaded. Other times, the truck might be several hundred feet away. If that’s the case, the truck driver has plenty of time to at least slow down and reduce the force of the wreck. The duty of care sometimes comes into play in these situations. More on that below.
Because of these issues, most turn wrecks involve the comparative fault defense. This doctrine basically shifts blame for an accident from the tortfeasor (negligent driver) to the victim.
If Harry turns in front of Sally and they collide, both drivers are partially at fault. Harry should have yielded the right of way and Sally should have been driving defensively. In these cases, jurors must listen to the evidence and divide responsibility on a percentage basis.
In some states, any fault on behalf of the victim torpedoes a damage claim. But Georgia is a modified comparative fault state with a 50 percent bar. If the tortfeasor was at least 50 percent responsible for the wreck, the victim is entitled to a proportionate share of damages.
So, if you were hurt in a wreck, even if the other driver was only partially at fault, always have a Marietta personal injury lawyer evaluate your case. You don’t know how much compensation you may be entitled to until an attorney evaluates your claim.
First Party Liability
However, we are getting ahead of ourselves. As mentioned, comparative fault is an insurance company defense. A Marietta personal injury attorney must first make a prima facie (preliminary) case for negligence. This case is primarily based on the evidence discussed above. These cases are also based on either ordinary negligence or negligence per se. The applicable duty of care is the foundation of both legal theories.
Ordinary negligence is usually a lack of reasonable care. This duty requires most motorists to drive defensively and avoid wrecks if they can.
Most commercial operators have a higher duty of care. They must take additional steps to avoid vehicle collisions.
Following distance for trucks is a good example of the difference. Generally, noncommercial motorists must keep about a two second cushion between their vehicles and the ones around them. The recommended truck following distance is usually eight seconds. So, a commercial operator’s duty of care isn’t just a little higher than noncommercial operator duty of care. It’s a lot higher.
The higher duty of care for commercial operators makes it easier for a Marietta personal injury attorney to establish negligence, or a lack of care. The higher duty of care also makes it easier to deal with insurance company defenses, such as comparative fault. Truck drivers are simply held to a higher standard in this area.
Sometimes, the standard of care does not matter. If a tortfeasor violates a safety law, an emergency responder issued a citation, and that violation substantially caused injury, the tortfeasor could be liable for damages as a matter of law.
Frequently, different laws apply to large trucks. For example, the freeway speed limit is usually lower for large trucks.
Third Party Liability
Because of the higher duty of care, it’s usually easier to establish first party liability in truck wreck claims. It’s also easier to establish vicarious liability. Third party liability is especially important in wrongful death and catastrophic injury claims. Georgia has one of the lowest auto insurance coverage requirements in the country. Many commercial drivers only have the state-required minimum. So, these drivers might not have enough insurance coverage to pay fair compensation in these claims.
Usually, the respondeat superior rule applies in truck, taxi, Uber, bus, and other commercial crash claims. This doctrine has two prongs:
- Employee: The negligent driver must have been an employee. The E-word is different in negligence cases than tax cases. Independent contractors, owner-operators, and even unpaid volunteers are normally employees for negligence purposes.
- Scope of Employment: The employee must have been negligent in the scope of employment. Georgia law also defines this key phrase in broad, victim-friendly terms. Usually, any act which benefits the employer in any way is within the scope of employment.
Other employer liability theories, which often apply in assault and other intentional tort claims, include negligent supervision and negligent hiring.
Injury victims are often entitled to substantial compensation. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in Marietta, contact The Phillips Law Firm, LLC. We do not charge upfront legal fees in these matters.